Many families move each year in search of opportunity and a new place to live. Many others are looking to move their college student(s) into an apartment. For those currently undergoing the task, searching for an apartment can be a daunting process. Your Better Business Bureau would like to offer these consumer tips in an effort to help you make more informed decisions while involved in the process of leasing a new place to live.
There are many things to consider when you are apartment hunting. Before you begin your search, here are some things to consider:
1. Rent. Determine how much you can afford and still live comfortably, taking all of your expenses into consideration. One rule of thumb suggests dividing your income by four. Your rent should not exceed more than 25 percent of your monthly income.
2. Space. How many people will be living in the unit? From 100 to 400 square feet per person is considered practical.
3. Location. How important is it for you to be near your place of work, school, shopping, medical facilities, etc.?
Before signing a lease you should always be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully and understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. Keep in mind that landlord-tenant laws ensure that everyone who lives in rental housing has a decent place to live.
The Georgia Tenants Handbook, a handy resource guide, is published by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and is available online at http://www.dca.ga.gov/ under publications. If you are looking at other states, you can visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD and look under find rental assistance.
Your BBB suggests you make sure the following information is included in your lease:
▪ Maintenance. Find out how all repairs are handled such as how to submit a repair request. Ask how quickly tenants can expect maintenance personnel to respond to a request once it has been turned in.
▪ Deposits. You should know what your security deposit covers and the conditions which might cause a tenant to experience deductions.
▪ Increases. Ask if your rent or other fees will be increased during your lease term, how often and how much notice you will receive.
▪ Subletting. Find out whether you are allowed to sublet your unit to another party in case of an emergency.
▪ Roommates. Find out if your lease covers roommates individually or together. If your roommate moves out, falls behind or stops paying, are you responsible for their part of the rent or are you viewed completely separate? Apartment complexes in college towns may have different policies, so be sure to ask.
▪ Rent. Get a schedule of when monthly payments are due, where rent can be paid and always keep a record of your payment.
Upon move-in, do not forget to document the condition of your apartment. Make sure your list includes each and every flaw or defect in your apartment so you are not held responsible for damages later. It’s advisable to also take photos or a video of your unit prior to move-in so you have documentation available in case a dispute arises when you get ready to move out.
Your BBB also suggests renters:
▪ Check out reviews of the apartment complex. Go to BBB.org to see the business review of the apartment complex you are considering. This will show its BBB rating, any history of complaints, as well as the complaint details and any contact information.
▪ Visit the complex personally. Tour the facility and visit the specific unit you’ll be renting. Make sure the community is safe and that the living space will meet your needs. Does it appear the way it was described? Websites often use pictures taken only from the best vantage points on the property or may be of a promotional unit.
▪ Keep a signed copy of the lease. Store it in a safe place so it is readily available in the event you ever need to refer back to it.
▪ Consider renter’s insurance. Many apartment communities require tenants have a minimum amount of renter’s insurance before move in. If it’s not required, it’s still an option tenants should consider. Renter’s insurance would cover your losses in the event of fire, burglary or other damage. Pay attention to deductibles and coverage limits when choosing a policy.
For more tips you can trust or to check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.